Tigers keep their clean sheet
MATCH REPORT: Leicester Tigers recorded their second win in two Champions Cup games this season as they toiled to a 29-23 win over Connacht at Welford Road on Sunday.
The hosts, who edged out Union Bordeaux-Bègles in Round One last weekend, needed another dogged display to overcome a Connacht side who led at half-time.
The Irish province, fresh from their opening-round win over Stade Francais Paris, caused the unbeaten Premiership leaders problems as flyhalf Jack Carty tallied 18 points.
The excellent Carty got Connacht off the mark with four minutes played as he nudged a penalty, with Leicester ill-disciplined during the opening exchanges.
But Tigers enjoyed a prolonged period of pressure with around 20 minutes played and were rewarded when scrumhalf Ben Youngs picked out hooker Nic Dolly down the blind side, who dived over in the corner.
And they would notch a second try in quick succession as fullback Bryce Hegarty crossed after centre Matt Scott did brilliantly to hold onto a loose ball and kick through.
Flyhalf Freddie Burns, who missed the first conversion and then a penalty, added the extras to put the home side 12-3 up.
Connacht was undeterred, however, and hit back on 27 minutes as wing John Porch spotted a gap and benefited from a lovely Bundee Aki offload to burst over the line, Carty’s conversion reducing the deficit to two points.
Handling errors littered Leicester’s game over the remainder of the half, and Carty would punish them for one just before half-time and the visitors into the break 17-12 up.
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Leicester struggled to gain a foothold after the break with Carty kicking another penalty, but the momentum swung in their favour as they switched their entire front row on 50 minutes, with Julian Montoya, James Whitcombe and Dan Cole all coming on.
The refreshed pack began bossing the scrum, with Connacht prop Finlay Bealham sent to the sin bin after his side conceded a string of penalties close to their line.
Leicester was ruthless as they exploited their numerical advantage – Freddie Steward went over moments later, before Hosea Saumaki’s try gave them the lead and secured their bonus point on 62 minutes.
A Bryce Hegarty penalty on 70 minutes eased the pressure as Leicester moved 29-20 clear, but Carty would have the final say as he cleverly slotted a drop-goal in the last action of the game to hand Connacht a losing bonus point.
Leicester is now third in Pool B on nine points with Connacht sitting fourth, three points adrift.
The two sides go head-to-head again on January 15, with Connacht hosting the Round Three encounter.
For Leicester Tigers
Tries: Dolly, Hegarty, Steward, Saumaki
Cons: Hegarty 2, Burns
Tries: Carty, Porch
Cons: Carty 2
Pens: Carty 2
Yellow card: Finlay Bealham (Connacht, 55)
Leicester Tigers: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Freddie Steward, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Nic Dolly, 1 Nephi Leatigaga.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Calum Green, 20 Ollie Chessum, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Jack van Poortvliet, 23 Guy Porter.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Niall Murray, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Matthew Burke.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Tietie Tuimauga, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Salesi Fifita, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Diarmuid Kilgallen.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Ian Kenny (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)